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The counsellor has a basic trust in the client. Trust, that the client, does have it within themselves to self-heal, realise their potential, alter their self-concept and make positive changes to grow towards becoming a more fully functioning person. On reflection, I can see I was in an incongruent state when I began therapy, and I imagine that may be the case with many clients going to therapy. The consistent congruence I have felt from my counsellor has helped me gain trust in her and be more congruent with her and myself.
This goes beyond the therapy room, the congruence has aided me to confront things on my own, and I am more able to be true to how I am feeling, this has been especially important for me recently. Being able to experience my feelings as they are for me in the moment has stopped me from denying and repressing them, which eases the feeling of turmoil. I can see how this may work with a client who is, for example, addicted to alcohol, it may ease the conflicting feelings within them that make them reach for a drink as they no longer need to deny how they feel to themselves and can talk it through with their counsellor.
As a counsellor it could be a challenging task to work, perhaps in an agency, with clients that have addictions, and it is really important for me to have the belief that I can do that effectively, but also regularly explore myself in relation to working in an environment where I may be faced with, drug users or alcohol users a regular basis, and the impact this may have.
The best place for me to do so would be in supervision which is an integral part of the support that a counsellor has, along with counselling, especially when a client group may present challenges, such as, clients that turn up to sessions intoxicated, or who could relapse. I think these issues need to be thought about they could have an impact on the counsellor, it is important for the client and relationship; as if I cannot be congruent, available and aware of how I am feeling, it would be an injustice to the client.
“In short we are not talking about ‘doing’ person-centred therapy, but about what is involved in becoming the kind of person capable of undertaking the work of a person-centred therapist. ” (Mearns and Thorne, 2000, pp89,a). The counsellors way of being is central to the relationship, this is not a technique or a method that is applied, its more of a philosophy to live by, the power of which is valuable, as I have experienced in my therapy.
My counsellors way of being demonstrates her acceptance of me, as a person, I am not judged for behaviour, and this is of major importance particularly when working with clients who have addictions, as they may have been judged for their behaviour and not accepted because they have an addiction, so to receive the unconditional positive regard from the counsellor is a new experience and one that may enable them to feel less guilt and shame and enable self-acceptance.
I was afraid of disclosing to my counsellor at first, as I felt I would be judged and reprimanded, or even worse, she may not like me, due to other experiences I had, which induced feelings of shame and humiliation, and lessened my self-worth. I felt the need to suppress my real self, to the extent that I thought I had got rid of parts of the ‘old’ me, due to negative and external conditioning, resulting in an external locus of evaluation. I believed I couldn’t be loved, and it was my fault, therefore I hurt myself, that’s all I felt I deserved, and what I got from other people.
Physical pain was more bearable, than the internal pain and conflict I was experiencing “… people experience negative conditioning or conditional responses from significant others (parents, relatives, friends, teachers, etc. ) that can affect their self-concept. ” (Bryant-Jefferies, 2001, pp76, c). similar experiencing for clients could be a factor of their developing an addiction, maybe to numb or mask the pain, or as a form of self-harm. My counsellors acceptance has gone a long way in enabling me to have self-acceptance, explore my self-concept, and start the journey towards the real me.
The counsellors empathy is also essential and “Acceptance and empathy are partners. ” (Mearns and Thorne, 2000, pp93, b). To truly be listened to and understood can have a profound effect, it lets the client know they are valued and can validate what they are saying, when the counsellor conveys her understanding. This is not only about the words but the feelings also. It lets me know, I am not alone, and the counsellor is along side me in my experiencing in that moment. It could be the first time clients are listened to, heard and understood, as oppose to being told what to do and being put down as not worth listening to.
“To be understood and to feel accepted as one is, is to experience the possibility of a world where it is possible to breathe without fear. ” (Mearns and Thorne, 2000, pp94, c). If I had, had the opportunity, I would have based my essay on the relationship and the potential of working at ‘relational depth’, this aspect of the PCA, fascinates me and, for me, what sets the PCA aside from other approaches, is the recognition placed on the importance and value of relation and the healing potential it provides.
It emphasises life changes can occur out of what is essentially a basic human need, and the anxiety that is caused when there is inefficient, ineffective or negative relating. “Most psychological problems in my experience stem from relational issues, and most of these can be resolved through the creation and experience of healthy relationship enabling the client to redefine their concept of themselves. ” (Bryant-Jefferies, 2001, pp71,d).
I can wholeheartedly say, with a passion that the relationship and meeting at moments of relational depth with my counsellor have hugely impacted my development in a positive way, and I feel that such moments could be so important when working with clients, as it could be this lack of relation which may have played a part in the formation of the addiction, and it could be the provision of an effective relationship that may help with overcoming it.
“Perhaps because we are so grounded in relationship that even though we have been thoroughly damaged we see the best hope of change as through relationship. ” (Mearns and Cooper, 2005, pp1,b ) There are many things that I have not been able to fully cover in this essay, but there are things which came up for me that I feel need to mentioned briefly.
When working with this particular client group, there are considerations to be made; if working for an agency, I feel its important to know their rules, policies and boundaries, especially, around seeing intoxicated clients, there are many differing views on this, some believe its worthwhile, while others would not see the client, but its important to think of the impact it may have on the client, and be congruent with them, or it could lead to feelings of rejection or judgement which contradict what is being achieved in the relationship.
I think it is worthwhile to think about this when developing a contract, and keeping in mind the boundaries that are stated in it. Also the therapist’s awareness of how they might feel if the client turned up drunk, for example, and would it be okay if they had one drink as oppose to ten. If I did choose to see an intoxicated client, I would be wise to remember that they may not remember what was said in the session; therefore it may be worth going over it briefly at the start of the next session.
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